One of the stories that I remember Teresa telling often was about watching the Gadsden Hotel burn down from the upstairs window. She said how scary it was and she was just a little girl. I looked up the history today and it burned down in 1929. She would have been about seven years old then.
She always loved to go into the Gadsden. She loved the beauty of the lobby. I know she was sad that it had declined so much. However, the good news is that a young couple have bought it and are living in it. They are really trying to get it going again.
When we have the Mass in Douglas on August 5, we are going to invite any family and friends to join us at the Gadsden around 4 to have a toast to Teresa. She would have loved that.
Here is some history that I found about the hotel and the fire:
This grand hotel was named after the historically significant Gadsden Purchase. The purchase of 30,000 square miles from Mexico in 1853 for 10 million dollars was negotiated by John Gadsden the American Ambassador to Mexico. The land was purchased to ensure territorial rights for a practical southern railroad route to the pacific coast.
The Gadsden Hotel was designed by famed architect Henry Trost. Trost dominated the architectural scene in the southwest and designed hundreds of buildings in El Paso, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson and San Angelo including the University of Texas El Paso. He was from the Chicago School of Architecture and specialized in designing what he referred to as “arid America”.
The hotel opened for business in November 1907. Imagine Arizona before it was a state and at a time when Wyatt Earp, Geronimo and Pancho Villa rode rough shod over the west. The hotel provided gracious hospitality to the growing business brought in by nearby mines and the settling of the territory. The hotel soon became a meeting place for cattlemen, ranchers, miners and businessmen.
On February 7, 1929, fire ripped through the hotel leaving nothing but the marble staircase. Like much of Arizona’s old west figures and culture, it was just too tough to die. The hotel was immediately rebuilt but on a grander scale with no expense spared.
Not many hotels of the day could boast about having an electric lift to reach one of its 4 floors. Travelers were amazed at the modern accommodations. The lift, still in use, is one of the oldest manually operated elevators west of the Mississippi. The hotel was one of the first to feature individual bathrooms in all 160 air cooled rooms. The hotel still has the original 1929 telephone switchboard; reportedly the first of its kind to be used in Arizona. Plans are under way to create a hotel museum highlighting the many historical and cultural aspects of the hotel.
The picture below is after the Gadsden burned.